By Christina Carrega, CNN
(CNN) – A federal judge on Thursday agreed to postpone the execution of Lisa Montgomery after her lawyers claimed they needed more time to work on her clemency petition for contracting the coronavirus.
Earlier this week, lawyers from the Cornell Law School International Clinic of Human Rights, arguing on behalf of Montgomery attorneys Amy Harwell and Kelley Henry, asked Judge Randolph Moss to postpone the December 8th execution until the attorneys recovered.
On Thursday, Judge Moss delayed Montgomery's execution until December 31, ruling that if attorneys do not recover from the coronavirus by December 24, court documents indicate that they will have to seek assistance from an additional and experienced lawyer.
The Justice Department declined to comment on the judge's decision.
Justice Department attorneys argued in court earlier this week that the extension request was not required as another attorney was supposed to prepare the Montgomery petition. While Montgomery has a team of attorneys working on their case, Harwell and Henry were the only ones with experience handling death penalty cases and have been appointed by a federal judge to work on Montgomery's case since 2012.
Henry and Harwell said in the DC District Court lawsuit that because they were surprised when Attorney General William Barr announced Montgomery's execution date, they were rushed to petition for clemency. The attorneys also requested that President Trump commute her death sentence to life in prison.
"Defendant Barr deliberately planned the execution of Ms. Montgomery during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic without giving her lawyers the same notice that other death row prisoners were given," the lawsuit said.
After seeing Montgomery in Texas Federal Prison, both lawyers were diagnosed with coronavirus despite following CDC guidelines.
From Monday the lawyers of Dr. Mark J. Davis described in an affidavit filed on Sunday as "functionally incapable of performing job duties".
"I can state with reasonable medical certainty that traveling to assist the client and visiting and providing services to his client during the height of the SARS CoV2 pandemic likely contributed to their current serious illness," wrote Davis.
Montgomery, who has severe mental illness, is in need and her only resources in the Texas prison where she is being held are a piece of paper and a crayon, said Sandra Babcock, who represented Montgomery on behalf of Henry and Harwell. Montgomery was unable to file her own pardon, she added.
"The district court's decision gives Lisa Montgomery a meaningful opportunity to prepare and submit a pardon after her lawyers recover from COVID," Babcock wrote in a statement. "Ms. Montgomery's case offers compelling reasons for mercy, including her history as a victim of gang rape, incest, and child trafficking, and severe mental illness."
Montgomery is the first woman on death row expected to be executed by the federal government in nearly 70 years. Montgomery was slated to be the ninth person to be killed this year after the government's 17-year hiatus. She is expected to receive a fatal injection.
She was convicted in 2004 of strangling, cutting out, and kidnapping a Missouri woman who was eight months pregnant. The baby survived.
The-CNN-Wire ™ and © 2018 Cable News Network, Inc., a Time Warner company. All rights reserved.